Role and mechanisms of action of acetylcholine in the regulation of rat cholangiocyte secretory functions.
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UNLABELLED: We investigated, in isolated bile duct units (IBDU) and cholangiocytes isolated from normal rat liver, the occurrence of acetylcholine (ACh) receptors, and the role and mechanisms of ACh in the regulation of the Cl-/HCO3- exchanger activity. The Cl-/HCO3- exchanger activity was evaluated measuring changes in intracellular pH induced by acute Cl- removal/readmission. M3 subtype ACh receptors were detected in IBDU and isolated cholangiocytes by immunofluorescence, immunoelectron microscopy, and reverse transcriptase PCR. M1 subtype ACh receptor mRNA was not detected by reverse transcriptase PCR and M2 subtype was negative by immunofluorescence. ACh (10 microM) showed no effect on the basal activity of the Cl-/HCO3- exchanger. When IBDU were exposed to ACh plus secretin, ACh significantly (P < 0.03) increased the maximal rate of alkalinization after Cl- removal and the maximal rate of recovery after Cl- readmission compared with secretin alone (50 nM), indicating that ACh potentiates the stimulatory effect of secretin on the Cl-/HCO3- exchanger activity. This effect of ACh was blocked by the M3 ACh receptor antagonist, 4-diphenyl-acetoxy-N-(2-chloroethyl)-piperidine (40 nM), by the intracellular Ca2+ chelator, 1,2-bis (2-Aminophenoxy)- ethane-N,N,N', N'-tetraacetic acid acetoxymethylester (50 microM), but not by the protein kinase C antagonist, staurosporine (0.1 microM). Intracellular cAMP levels, in isolated rat cholangiocytes, were unaffected by ACh alone, but were markedly higher after exposure to secretin plus ACh compared with secretin alone (P < 0.01). The ACh-induced potentiation of the secretin effect on both intracellular cAMP levels and the Cl-/HCO3- exchanger activity was individually abolished by two calcineurin inhibitors, FK-506 and cyclosporin A (100 nM). CONCLUSIONS: M3 ACh receptors are markedly and diffusively represented in rat cholangiocytes. ACh did not influence the basal activity of the Cl-/HCO3- exchanger, but enhanced the stimulation by secretin of this anion exchanger by a Ca2+-dependent, protein kinase C-insensitive pathway that potentiates the secretin stimulation of adenylyl cyclase. Calcineurin most likely mediates the cross-talk between the calcium and adenylyl cyclase pathways. Since secretin targets cholangiocytes during parasympathetic predominance, coordinated regulation of Cl-/HCO3- exchanger by secretin (cAMP) and ACh (Ca2+) could play a major role in the regulation of ductal bicarbonate excretion in bile just when the bicarbonate requirement in the intestine is maximal.